By Barry Lord @
Even the most ardent football devotee must admit that when a person is made to fear for their safety, and that of their family, after committing that most ‘heinous’ offence of passing comment on football related matters, a line surely has been crossed.
For Rachel Lynch, a young, successful Dublin journalist, this scenario was a depressing, not to mention terrifying reality – when she realised her football comments had led to someone posting photos of her family online and menacingly commenting: ‘Someone must know where she lives.’
The levels of abuse Rachel suffered were so pernicious that the Gardai were required to intervene.
“I recently tweeted that I was going to follow Ireland at the Euros and I put up a tricolour,” Rachel told Ireland Today.
“Before long, I had people taking screenshots of my Twitter account, sending them to my employers, complaining ‘how can this woman be impartial if she’s posting things like this?’
Occasional public disapproval may be part of a journalist’s life, but it wasn’t long before the tone of complaint took on a more sinister tone.
“Everything I posted began to be trolled,” said Rachel. “I put my views on 1916 up, all my own views, and they were twisted to fit someone’s agenda.”
Rachel added: “I don’t believe I had done anything wrong. Yet I was facing calls to be sacked, urging other papers not to employ me. I honestly don’t set out to antagonise. I’m not remotely religious. But it seems being Irish is a problem in some people’s eyes.”
“The final straw was a few weeks ago when someone started posting pictures of my family online. I was reading things like ‘Dublin’s a small city, someone must know where she lives’. That’s when I thought, ‘look I might be fair game, but my family is not.”
The journalist is a lifelong supporter of the Scottish Premier League champions and her fearless displays of national and club allegiance were recently met with a torrent of personal attacks and vitriol.
It cannot be understated that for many people, supporting Celtic or their city rivals Rangers is not a matter of passing fashion; it can define your identity.
While there are plenty of exceptions among both sets of supporters, Celtic still largely represent the Irish Catholic community in the west of Scotland, while Rangers’ support is rooted in traditional Scottish Protestantism.
These divisions can lead to a dangerous conflation between a person’s footballing allegiance and their personal politics.
On Derby days, the waving of flags, union jacks and Irish tricolours, are viewed as acts of provocation, depending on what side of the terrace you happen to be standing.
But things appear to have truly gone too far, when a young woman fears for her safety and that of her family’s.
Rachel decided to take a social media sabbatical, while the guards looked at the case.
“I left for five days,” Rachel said. “I think there is a more personal level of abuse aimed at women (regarding the abuse she received.)
“I’m not a feminist. I don’t have an agenda. But when it comes to sport, a man can be labelled a fool for his view on sport. But a woman can be called a ‘whore’ or much worse.”
Thankfully, Rachel has an inner strength that belies her years and she is now actively back on social media and doing what she loves.
She was also content in the knowledge that she had the backing of her employers throughout, and some welcome support from Rangers fans dismayed by the behaviour of some of their fellow fans.
“If I didn’t have the support behind me, my career might have been over,” said Rachel.
“I’ve been told that I’ve closed off a lot of career avenues by covering Celtic, but to them I say I’m still working, doing what I love and had I not chosen this path, I may not have doing what I’m doing now.”
Tell us what you think? Why are women suffering such a backlash for having an opinion on football online? Have you experienced online bullying for opinions on sport or anything else as a woman? Email us at: info@irelandtoday_ or Facebook or tweet us @irelandtoday_